The perpetually smiling Virgin Group founder Richard Branson is not happy.
A Christmas “gag” labelled “The Gift of Christmas Surprise” — featuring picture of a man covering a woman’s eyes from behind along with the caption “Necklace? Or chloroform?” — was posted on Virgin Mobile’s homepage over the weekend.
Buzzfeed’s Copyranter analysed the joke’s many subtleties: “Necklace? Or Abduction! Necklace? Or Rape! Necklace? Or Murder!”
An angry Branson immediately took to his blog saying, “Although I don’t own the company, it carries our brand. I will speak to the team there, make my thoughts clear and see what can be done about it. Virgin Mobile US usually gets things right, although on this occasion it is clear they have gone too far.”
The post was accompanied with a photo of very serious looking Branson:
[credit provider=”Richard’s Blog” url=”http://www.virgin.com/richard-branson/blog/virgin-mobile-us-advert”]
“This was a rogue post by an external agency that was not approved by the Virgin Mobile USA brand marketing group. We have since spoken to our outside agencies and reinforced our company policy. In no way does Virgin Mobile USA support sexism or domestic violence… We apologise deeply to anyone who has been offended by this posting.”
Branson also relayed the news on his blog.
“Having spoken with [Virgin Mobile US] just now they acknowledge a dreadful mistake was made, and the advert will be withdrawn within the hour, never to be seen again.”